Cooperate and Fix It!

republicans-look-to-capitalize-on-obamacare-problems-heading-into-2014-elections

Oh, please.

The Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare,” was passed by Congress in 2009.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether it was a piece of legislation that had, or didn’t have, bi-partisan support.  It passed because a majority of the members of Congress voted for it, the President signed it into law and then, the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional.  It’s the law, now. And while there are some people who don’t like it, particularly health insurance companies and corporate medical care, there are others who do, and who will discover that they benefit from it in some way.  It’s the way we do things in our democratic republic.

So the website that was set up to help people obtain personal health insurance did not work well at the start.  It was set up by private contractors, and while it should have been inspected, and the administration should have made certain it was working to perfection before it was launched, I think the responsibility for its initial failures should rest with the contractors who built it, and who had a contract with the government under the expectation of doing it right.  At any rate, it has nothing to do with the legislation itself.  Making a political issue out of it is nothing more than a diversionary tactic. 

Perhaps the President should not have been so sweeping and universal in his assurances that “if you like your current insurance policy, you can keep it.”  Actually, under the rules of the ACA, that is true.  The policies that insurance companies are cancelling don’t comply with the rules, an important qualification that the President mentioned.  As it is developing, there are not nearly as many policies being cancelled as early estimates stated, and the President offered to adjust the legislation as a result of the problem, which was also a promise he made when this was originally passed.  But essentially those are the things on which the Republicans are resting their campaign against Obamacare, and against the Democrats, and on which they claim they want to “capitalize” from a political perspective.

Alrighty, then.  I guess when you are facing a lot of criticism, and you are seeing your poll numbers tank because of the government shutdown, the sequester, and a whole long list of other problems, when the other side makes a couple of mistakes, regardless of the issue, it seems like a point of light in the darkness, or, so to speak.  But I don’t think this is a good idea.

I don’t care how you look at it, if your concern is about yourself, and what you can gain by problems that affect your constituents, that’s selfish.  Whether we voted for you or not, you are our elected representatives.  Shouldn’t you be more interested in resolving a problem that is going to have an effect on us, than you are in trying to use it to get ahead politically?  If that’s the message you want to send, then I would suggest just buying advertising time that says, “We’re more interested in our political standing than we are in your health.” 

The few Americans who are not concerned about where health care costs and insurance costs are headed are wealthy.  The rest of us, from the upper middle class on down, are alarmed and concerned that the cost of both health care and insurance are increasing at a rate that is way ahead of inflation.  We are told that increases are required to “cover rising costs,” but when insurance providers report record profits, and you hear about multi-million dollar executive bonuses, you have to wonder what is driving up the cost.  And if you do a little digging, you’ll find an awful lot of money that went into political action committees.  That money didn’t just materialize, it came from those increases in premiums that you and I are paying, which are supposed to be going to our health care. 

If you want a preview of how successful the idea of “capitalizing” on the problems with the ACA will be, examine the gubernatorial election in Virginia this month.  The party who holds the White House has not won the off-year Virginia election for more than thirty years, and the Democrats have not swept all three top state offices when they hold the White House since 1963.  The Republicans centered their campaign on the problems with the ACA website, the cancellation of insurance policies, and “Obamacare” in general, and several PAC’s spent millions of dollars in insurance and corporate health care contributions to “send a message.”  It should have been a slam dunk for the GOP, especially right in the middle of the ACA’s problems, but even in a conservative state like Virginia, the Democrats won, all three posts. 

What’s the message in those results?  Work together and work for us.  This isn’t about you.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Cooperate and Fix It!

  1. K Gray

    A minor matter – media wrote the headline, not Republicans. Media makes everything into an election horserace more than a substantive issue.

    But that’s a quibble. The bigger matter is how to deliver better healthCARE (not the same as health insurance) to more people. And I along with many others think the ACA — when it is fixed — will boomerang and end up restricting access and making it more expensive, as the Washington state single mother whom President Obama cited in his Rose Garden speech found out. The ACA would spread risks far more broadly and deeply than they are now. In theory, by logic, that would seem to work. But it doesn’t factor in much about human or business behavior. (That’s a separate, long discussion).

    Many people think that with Social Security and Medicare trustees warning that these systems are “unsustainable,” creating another huge system is worse than not creating it. There are allternatives such as insurance competition across state lines, adjustments in insurance regulations (e.g., on preexisting conditions),

    What drives healthcare costs up? A 2008 study found that the biggest drivers were (1) Baby Boomers – a populous generation living longer than any generation before, using tremendous amounts of healthcare resources in those later years; and (2) Americans’ broad expectations of healthcare options (tests, treatments, surgeries, drugs). These two drivers — demographics and expectations — are not simple to address.

    Some aspects are more troubling than others. For example, the payment systems are not finished, not connected. No one knows who is actually insured or not. A person does not become insured by being “enrolled” or “picking a plan.” There’s no card to show to the hospital/doctor/clinic. Even if the citizen has paid a premium, the gov’t lacks the system to forward subsidies to the insurer. This puts the who risk/rate system in peril, not to mention payment to the hospital/doctor/clinic – which cannot survive months without payment. They have to meet a payroll (nurses, techs, etc..), pay bills, order supplies, etc.

    If this is a one-year ‘hiccup’ that we can get past, I still believe there will be less access to healthcare.

    In the end, if we are all supposed to cooperate in laws democratically passed, they I assume Texas Democrats will be busily trying to help abortion clinics update their facilities, instead of protesting and challenging the Texas abortion laws.

  2. Lee

    Yes, the news media did write the headlines, but the Republicans have had more than ample opportunity to come up with their own plan. The longer this goes on without a serious GOP proposal, the more people will think that they are just happy with the broken system of rip-offs that is currently in place. The approach of attacking the ACA has been a failure, by virtually any means of political evaluation.

    Part of the reason that the GOP is still trying to hang their hat on this is the money trail. The PAC’s, backed by big insurance and big corporate medicine, is spending a lot of money to campaign against the ACA. If it weren’t for that, the GOP would be broke, still paying off debt from the 2012 disaster. They are, once again, letting corporate money and corporate interests dictate their politics. The money for the campaign to capitalize on the difficulties of the ACA is about all they’ve got, so they jumped on the bandwagon. By the time the elections roll around in 2014, if they’re still on this theme, and the economy keeps chugging along like it is, and the provisions of the ACA benefits are felt by the anticipated 20 to 30 million Americans it is expected to affect, it spells a major disaster for the GOP.

  3. Karen

    Well we will hold you to that prophecy.

    I have read much of the ACA and studied/followed it diligently since the inception. The problems run very deep and affect millions of people’s lives. Those people are calling their Senators and reps–Republican or Democrat. Big money? More like mom and pop and grandma and pundit -whose-perfectly-decent-insurance-is-now-deemed-”substandard.” You are starting to hear even Democrats wondering if it the ACA is fixable at all, now that they understand what they voted for, replete with its current regulations (which may or may not be enforced, and have thousands of waivers depending on who you are). So we will see.

  4. Karen

    Since President Obama just moved one onerous provision of ACA from October 2014 to November 2014 – just past election time- that shoulld help your Democrats.

  5. Lee

    Implementing major health care reform wasn’t going to be easy. That’s a given. There are two multi-billion dollar industries involved, insurance and corporate medicine. Together, with the recent Citizens United ruling on campaign contributions, they have invested billions of dollars into all kinds of propaganda to attempt to derail the ACA, from complete distortions of sound bytes from political speeches to paying royalties to newspapers and media outlets to run their “stories”. It’s not really what a lot of Democrats, and independents, wanted. The first soundings put forth related to a single-payer, universal health care system operated by the government, and that opened the door for the wailing and weeping over “socialized medicine” and for the money to be invested in defeating any potential bill.

    I’m not convinced that the ACA will overcome the whole problem. It is, after all, a revamped Republican idea, and it does little to limit the overwhelming profiteering and outright robbery that goes on, from the price of medical supplies and the cost of care, to the way insurance companies do business. Polling has consistently shown a significant majority of Americans, upwards of 70%, believe that our health care system is broken, and needs to be completely reformed. The problem the Republicans have, as I said before, is that they don’t have a plan, and thus, are perceived as supporting the broken system with its overly inflated costs and reduced service. Billions of dollars were spent on the 2012 election, and the people essentially said, “Ho hum,” and affirmed the ACA by re-electing the President by an electoral landslide, and a popular vote margin that falls outside the category of “close race.” They increased the number of members of his party in both houses, and they’ve essentially won every election since then, especially those billed as “referendums on Obamacare.” That should tell you what the voters think.

    The other problem that Republicans have is that there are a lot of other issues out there which Americans rate as being more important than health care reform. They are putting all of their eggs into that basket because that’s where the PAC money is going, but the voters aren’t all heading in that direction. I used to think Sarah Palin was the biggest obstacle to Republican election hopes, and she certainly was a large one, but Ted Cruz has replaced her as the biggest threat to national GOP victory hopes. Exit polls in recent elections, including New Jersey and Virginia, show the negative numbers for the tea partiers and right wing Republicans to be as high as two thirds of the total number of voters. That being the case, the rallying cry of “repeal Obamacare” isn’t going to be nearly enough.

  6. K Gray

    That is certainly the DNCC’s view.

    Two matters I think bear pointing out. Big Insurance helped craft, lobby for and promote the ACA. They were ‘at the table’ with the administration. The ACA makes buying insurance (or paying a fine) mandatory, which insurers wanted. Now, however, they have seen what it really means for them: the President disses them in the Rose Garden (after which he meets with them to assure them they are still in this together); HHS regulates in unanticipated ways; the administration gives waivers and changes deadlines without notice or time for preparation. Still I haven’t seen insurers “attempt to derail” the ACA. That may come, however, as they grapple with the President’s pronouncements (e.g., people can now ‘keep their plan’ another year; although many state insurance commissioners, even in deep blue states, simply aren’t allowing that), and how to price for next year when people can’t sign up in the expected volumes, and many enrolling are simply Medicare, not insurance customers.

    I’m not sympathetic, believe me. And if more people are getting Medicare who qualify for it, and this is sustainable, I am glad for them.

    Second, “Republicans don’t have a plan’ isn’t true. Comprehensive healthcare bills have been introduced repeatedly even before President Obama was elected – back at least as far as 2007, by Senators Enzi, Corker, Bennett(R)-Wyden(D) (a bipartisan bill introduced in ’07 and again in ’09), Coburn, Dole, and more. Don’t you remember the Ryan plan that would kill grandma? President Bush proposed on in a State of the Union address; Harry Reid famously pronounced it “dead on arrival” and would not “cooperate and fix” the healthcare system.

    Most recently, Republicans introduced H.R.3121, The American Healthcare Reform Act, with over 100 cosponsors. But, Republican plans can’t get to the floor of the Senate. There’s no point to it, it would never pass. The two parties simply have very different ideas about how to get more healthcare to more people, more affordably AND sustainably. Since it is such a tough issue, I don’t disrespect different visions or ascribe terrible motives to people with different ideas.

    • Lee

      The Republicans do not technically have a “plan” because the various elements of the party cannot get a consensus to support one. It has little to do with not getting to the Senate floor, the fact is that they have no consensus, what Corker wants Cruz will not support. What Cruz wants, which is simply to let corporate medicine and insurance companies run the show and rob us blind, leaving upwards of half the country without coverage or care, won’t be supported by Corker. And that gets back to the original motivation. The Republicans aren’t interested in the problems average Americans are having with their health care and insurance coverage, they are interested only in seeing to it that the President is not successful in any endeavor. The exit polls from both 2012, and from the off-mid term elections this year, along with the major political polling, shows that this is what the voters see, and that is why, regardless of the problems that the ACA has experienced with its website, and in the sabotage and full fevered pitched battle being waged by insurance and corporate medicine spending billions of our dollars on the campaign, the GOP is going to lose control of the House in 2014. A senate with 61 Democrats and a house with 235, give or take 2 or 3, is apparently where the voters are headed to end government gridlock.

  7. Karen

    Just one more time- this from the New York Times (repeatedly-): the ACA resulted from “a fragile alliance between Democrats and insurance executives” and powerful insurance lobbyists. Although nervous now, they are still allied with the administration and are spending millions to PROMOTE the provisions of ACA, not sabotage it. Still hoping for many, many new customers and subsidies. (See NYT 11/30/13 – “Inside the Race To Rescue a Health Care Site, and Obama”).

  8. Lee

    That’s an interesting contention, except that there is a record created when corporate insurance, and corporate medicine give money to PACs that support the repeal of the ACA. And it has been a pretty high figure, billions, in fact.

  9. K Gray

    “Contention?” All news sources (left, center and right) regularly reported it based on historical records of the meetings held to craft, lobby for, and promote the ACA. Some names: Karen Ignani, “longtime chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurers trade association…one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington…risked alienating some of her own members by working toward the law’s passage”; she “held her tongue” during early website problems; also Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini, convinced by his son’s illness that more Americans need coverage, caused Aetna to “invest heavily” in the ACA; insurance execs of Humana, Kaiser Permanente, Carefirst, BCBS also involved; CEO of Tufts Healthplan recently saying “let’s roll up our sleeves” when all were invited to meet with the President in October and November…. ETC.

    That is Big Insurance. (All quotes above from NYT and Washington Post, but check anywhere). Fact.

  10. K Gray

    Just FYI, the Washington Post todaynotes as part of a long article (mostly about the website) “Starting in October, five insurance carriers began to work closely with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services staff [on website issues], periodically trading their lists of known customers.” Big Insurance has been and still is on board, getting customers.

  11. Lee

    As the purpose of this post was to point out that Republicans have no plan other than the status quo with regard to health care reform, and that they are stopping at nothing in their attempts to derail it, here’s a link to some of the shenanigans that are going on. I don’t trust any information from a commercial media source on this issue, because there is too much stuff that is paid for, but made to look like it is “news” when it comes to the ACA.

    http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/12/03/3012281/california-republicans-trick-voters-fake-obamacare-site/

    Makes you wonder which Republican’s fingerprints are on the computers that sabotaged the government’s healthcare.com website, doesn’t it?

  12. Lee

    And here is more evidence that the GOP is obstructing and confusing the whole issue. In two states where they control the legislature, they have made it illegal for people to provide advice on insurance policies, and are essentially trying to keep people from getting insurance, and getting information about it. This is just a political issue to them, they couldn’t care less about whether Americans have health coverage or health care. They are fine with rip offs, and with people having to go without coverage or care, they just want to make sure they feather their own political nest. Good luck with that.
    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/ahead-the-124-maddow-show-1